How to evict squatters

Evicting squatters is an unenviable task for landlords, but since squatting laws were reformed in 2012, the process might be easier than you think.

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Squatting laws in the UK

Squatting – sometimes known as ‘adverse possession’ – refers to someone deliberately entering your property without permission and living there, or attempting to do so. If you want to know how to evict a squatter, there's a legal pathway you can pursue. Since 2012 it's been illegal to squat in a residential building, and potential penalties include a £5,000 fine, a 6-month prison sentence or both.

Squatters also break the law if they cause damage to a property – residential or otherwise – in the process of gaining access. The change in the law is intended to quicken the legal process for evicting squatters from a residential property.

Why do squatters have rights to remain in a home?

A lot has been made of the phrase ‘squatters’ rights’ in the UK – this well-known term refers to a 1977 law which outlawed the threat and use of violence by landlords to evict tenants where the occupant refuses to leave. It remains the case that you can’t threaten or use force when it comes to evicting squatters. If someone trespasses in your home, you'll need to take legal action in a civil court to prove your case. For the judge to decide in your favour, they'll need to be persuaded that the defendant is ‘living’ or ‘intending to live’ in the building, rather than just being present.

Advice on evicting squatters

Having someone unlawfully enter your home is an unwelcome experience and you can hardly be blamed if you’re not sure whether squatters’ rights in the UK apply to your situation. If you discover squatters in your home, you can call the police, who have powers to search a residential property and arrest a person they suspect of squatting. But no matter how much you want to get rid of the squatters, you should never try and remove the squatters yourself, using force or the threat of force – doing so will violate the law.

How to evict a squatter with an IPO

Evicting squatters is never straightforward, but if you encounter trespassers in your home you can obtain an interim possession order (IPO). You can download the application form online, then send it to your local county court. It should only take a few days before you hear back; you’ll receive the relevant documents which you’re obliged to give the squatters within 48 hours, after which the squatters must leave your property within 24 hours and stay away from your property for 12 months. Failure to do so means they will face a possible prison sentence.

It’s worth noting that you can only make an IPO claim within 28 days following the discovery of squatters in your home. Ultimately, you will also need to render a final claim of possession, which you can make using your original IPO, to complete your recovery of the property.

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